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Ice Fishing Ideas For Finicky Fish

By Bob Jensen - January 1, 2010
Fish under the ice, just like fish in open water, sometimes get finicky. It seems that they just don't want to open their mouths to take the bait we have down there. Here are some ideas for getting fish to eat your bait when they don't seem to want to.

First of all, if they're not eating the bait you're showing them, show them something else. However, showing them something else doesn't necessarily mean you need to change baits, you just might need to change the way you're showing them the bait.

For instance, let's say you're fishing walleyes and you have a Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon down there. You can see on your depth finder that fish are coming in and looking at the bait. They're just not eating it. Buck-Shot Rattle Spoons are about as good a bait as you can use for walleyes and perch. For many anglers, this spoon is their "go-to" bait for walleyes and perch.

But sometimes the fish want the bait presented in a certain way. Sometimes they want it fished very slowly, with just slight jiggles. Other times they want it moved more aggressively. So, if they won't eat it the way you're moving it, move it differently.

If you try different jigging actions and nothing works, it's time for more drastic measures. If they were looking at the spoon, that's at least an indication they're interested. Try a similar spoon in a different color or size. Often times when the fish are being selective, a different color or size will get them to eat. Usually it works best to go to a smaller size for finicky fish.

If that doesn't work, a complete overhaul is called for. Maybe a plain hook and splitshot under a slip-bobber will get the job done. This is a pretty bare-bones presentation, and sometimes that's what it takes to get the fish to eat.

When fish are being selective be sure to keep the bait above them, but not too far above. Modern ice-fishing sonar units do an outstanding job of enabling us to keep the bait right where we want it. The target separation of the new Humminbird ICE 55 will allow an angler to know exactly where the bait is in relation to the targeted fish. When the fish are aggressive, they'll come up several feet to take a bait. But when they're being choosy, they often won't want to move too far to take a bait. When you see a fish on the sonar, slowly get the bait to the fish's level. You don't want the bait to fall quickly right on the fish, as that will oftentimes spook it. Jiggle the bait a little above the fish: If it doesn't go up to take it, lower it slowly just a couple of inches.

Line visibility is another important consideration. When the fish are selective, a line that's hard for them to see will usually be most productive. Trilene 100% fluorocarbon is invisible underwater and would be an outstanding choice for fish that are playing hard-to-get.

Like it or not, we sometimes have to deal with finicky fish. If you keep the above ideas in mind, you will be able to deal with them more effectively.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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